There is a host service in place, in Porto, for those children with no support background in the household, as their parents are essential workers or cannot work from home. Keeping the quality of learning and teaching, even during the school remote system in place, owing to the pandemic, is a major priority of the Municipality of Porto. Currently, over 400 first graders benefit form a daily meal service; also, the educational programmes have been adjusted and adapted to the current needs, in the framework of the pandemic constraints.
It is ten o’clock in the morning, and the school cafeteria of the Escola EB1 das Antas is already concluding another delivery lunch service to 18 schools within the Municipality. Even with schools closed, these teaching facilities remain with doors open to provide support to the school community, either by delivering lunches or hosting children, whose parents are essential workers or cannot perform remote work. There is also the case of vulnerable households whose children are due to attend in-person school activities, as advised by the Child Protective Services.
“We have kept the meal services, either in-person, or remotely, in which case it is delivered under the take-away modality, and that includes snacks. So, we can say that, despite this absolutely unprecedented situation we live in, schools in Porto are able to provide support to the circa 8.000 children of the Municipal School Network, by interacting with the teachers and with the educational and pedagogical programmes”, states Fernando Paulo, councillor for Education.
Every day, circa 433 lunches and 435 snacks are prepared and delivered to students within the municipality. Meals are served in a suitable box to be distributed to the circa 213 children that attend in-person school lessons. The Escola Básica do Bom Sucesso is such a school, where around 12 noon, children sanitise their hands and prepare to have lunch, one seated at each table, according to the preventive health measures in place. The same happens with the school located at Rua de Barbosa Du Bocage, and others in the municipality, which have had to adapt to the new reality, focusing on the learning needs, mobilising resources, adjusting strategies and pedagogical practices, as regards remote learning, to mitigate the pandemic impact on education.
Ângela Bastardo, coordinator of the Escola EB1 do Bom Sucesso, explains the format in place for the children that follow the in-presence classes, “they are separated by grade and year; each class has an assistant professor, while they attend classes with the rest of the class and listen to their professor, they are in touch with everyone else in their class, remotely, through the computer screen”.
These children, aged 3 and 9 years, also have assistant professors to teach them Activity Enrichment Curriculum (AEC) and Family Support Programme (CAF). These are the teachers that support children that have to go to school to follow the remote class, delivered by their teacher to the rest of the class that stays at home. During breaks, they get to play in the playground and get help with their homework.
“We try to make the daily activities of these children as normal as possible”, adds Ângela Bastardo.
Ana Melo, kindergarten teacher, performs outdoor activities with two children, aged three, the only ones to attend in-person school activities. “Although we wish the school is filled with students, we try to do our best; our biggest concern is their safety”, she enthuses.
Porto City Hall has strengthened the investment to support educational and curricula development within the Municipal Schools Network. Councillor Fernando Paulo ensures that “this is a priority area within the municipality”.
Municipal programmes aim at promoting socio-educational activities, and this has been a very positive investment, with actions developed to maintain children and youth motivated while the distance learning is in place.